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Teen Pregnancy Rates Soar at Chicago High School

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A predominantly Black high school in Chicago is making national headlines, but not for anything we can be proud of.

At Robeson High School, a struggling public school in Englewood, one out of every seven girls is either pregnant or has already become a mother.

Principal Gerald Morrow, who was born to a 15-year-old teen mother himself, counts a variety of factors including "things that are happening in the home," and absentee fathers, as some of the reasons for the shocking statistic at his school, reports CBS2Chicago.com. One hundred and fifteen students out of 800 girls are currently pregnant or are already mothers.

Author Lauren Lake, co-founder of the Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network, places the blame squarely at the feet of popular culture. "We see the stars and we celebrate them having babies before they get married," Lake told CNN's Prime News. "What I see is a whole bunch of little girls affected by what we've allowed our culture to become which is sex-driven and sex-obsessed. I think what we are seeing is our young people exhibiting characteristics and making choices based on things we are allowing them to see and experience way too early."

Clinical psychologist Dr Brenda Wade, who also appeared on CNN, points out that many pregnant teens are the children of teen parents themselves. "This means that there is a higher likelihood of an inter-generational pattern that our kids will model."

Wade went on to say that teenagers in these situations were often raised without fathers in the house, making the boys more likely to seek out ways to express their masculinity, while the girls suffer from "daddy hunger." Wade says, "That's not a good combination."

While the situation at Robeson is extreme, it's part of a nationwide trend that has seen teen pregnancy rates increase for the first time in more than a decade. (The United States has a teen pregnancy rate far higher than any other industrialized country.)

Part of the problem, say experts, is the lack of comprehensive and medically accurate health education offered at schools. According to the Chicago Tribune, sex education is not required in Illinois schools, but state law says that if it is taught, it must emphasize abstinence. The Tribune reports that in Illinois, nearly 2 out 5 students who take sex education are taught an abstinence-only curriculum, meaning they are not given any information about contraceptives. Instead they are taught that abstinence until marriage is the best way to prevent pregnancy.

Abstinence-only education was heavily promoted and supported by the Bush administration, which pumped nearly 1 billion federal dollars into the programs.

According to many experts, abstinence-only education is not effective in changing teen sexual behavior. Critics argue that abstinence-only curriculum further spreads ignorance about ways in which teens can prevent unintended pregnancies. Many organizations, including the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, maintain that sex education needs to be comprehensive to be effective.

The only bright side in all of this? To accommodate the need for a day-care center near the school, developers are rehabilitating an abandoned building across the street. It used to be a crack house.

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